After a four-month teacher strike, our two girls went back to public school for the first time last week. As per our usual autumn routine, we took their hair out of extensions and styled it into some cute hairstyles.
I have been working extra hours lately, as we just opened a new business, so I opted for hairstyles that could be done in 30 to 40 minutes. One daughter got wide, flat twists, while the other looked up from her movie to see that I had done Bantu knots in her hair.
"Oh no!" my daughter with the knots all over her head exclaimed. "I can't wear this to school! Kids will make fun of me!"
I was, of course, devastated. Not only had I put in the time to do her hair, but I wanted her to feel comfortable and confident with her hairstyle. My daughters are lovely little girls, and have always felt good about the way they look. Hearing her nervous about her hairstyle made me nervous. Would kids truly make fun of her? And who were these kids anyway? Some kind of hair bullies?
I sent her to bed with a towel rolled under her neck and some melatonin to sleep through that first uncomfortable night of Bantu knots. I promised that we would take it out in the morning if she still felt uncomfortable.
In the morning, she told us at the breakfast table that she was scared about the neighborhood boys giving her a hard time about her hair.
My husband's advice? To quip back "Well, I can change my hair, but you can't change your face. "
I thought this was a ridiculous thing to say.
I gave her a pep talk about feeling confident and proud of her hair, culture, etc. I also reminded her that her friends love her hair, and more people would like it that would not like it.
So I walked my daughter to school, Bantu knots and all.
After the day was done, I asked her about how it went.
She looked at me and smiled.
"I got lots of compliments on my hair." She said. "One of the boys did make fun of my hair, though, until the teacher told him to leave me alone.
Then at lunchtime, he came to bug me about my hair on the playground.
I told him that I can change my hair, but he can't change his face. He didn't know what to say!"
"Daddy had a good idea!" She grinned ear to ear. "The boy just didn't know what to say."
Well it wasn't my parenting method, but the result was my intention. For the last week, she's worn her hair to school and not had anything but compliments. The annoying boy was apparently put into his place with her witty retort.
And most importantly, my daughter is wearing, with pride, an extremely avant-garde cultural hairdo that keeps her hair free from tangles and shows off the gorgeous shape of her head.
Take that, hair bully.